“But the people grew impatient on the way . . .” – Numbers 21:4
Many a man has turned and left the dock just before his ship came in, so the saying goes, and I am among them; for I wish I had a nickel for all the times I have either jumped the gun, whined and complained, or simply given up because I became impatient. As recently as this past weekend I became impatient and turned the TV off too soon during my college alma mater’s football game. As it turns out I “left the dock” too soon because in the end they rallied and won the game. I remember my children when they were little whining and nagging – impatiently! – for something they wanted. I’m sure as a child I acted the same with my parents. Then there have been the times when I’ve jumped the gun, as when I became so impatient for a promotion that I made a terribly bad career choice that almost cost me the really big break I had been wishing for.
Impatience has been a major cause of mankind’s bad judgments, mistakes, failures, and missed opportunities throughout human history. You might say that one of the reasons Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple in the Garden was due to their impatience to be like God – big mistake!! And remember the story of Abraham and Sarah? God had promised Abraham that his offspring would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens, even though his wife Sarah was barren and way beyond childbearing age. But Sarah and Abraham eventually became impatient, leading them to jump the gun by making an unwise decision. Centuries later God made a promise to Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites who had been enslaved by the Egyptians, to lead them into a better land. Yet, as Moses led them on their journey to that Promised Land they became impatient and whined and complained about the travel conditions.
It was only by a stroke of good fortune that my impatience for a promotion years ago did not ultimately cost me that big break, although it did result in some months of anguish that with patience could have been avoided. It was a hard lesson. Faith, hope and belief, in ourselves, others, and in God I have since learned is where we gain patience. May we all in our respective life journeys take care to not grow impatient on the way, so as not turn and leave the dock too soon – just before our ship comes in.